BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 29, 2014
This morning, Supreme Court Justice Dennis Hannomansingh granted bail of $100,000 to two Bahamians who were arrested by Belize authorities on a provisional arrest warrant pending an extradition request from the United States.
Kelvin Leach, 34, and Rohn Knowles, 29, two Bahamians who, along with four other individuals, were named in a U.S. indictment which was unsealed in Brooklyn, in the Eastern District Court of New York earlier this month, regained their freedom after being in lockdown at the Kolbe-managed Belize Central Prison.
On Monday, September 15, Leach and Knowles appeared in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court to answer to a charge of failure to declare funds when leaving Belize. The charge was laid by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) after the two were intercepted at the Philip Goldson International Airport.
The men appeared before Magistrate Dale Cayetano, who released them on a $6,000 bail. Before they were able to access the bail Cayetano’s court offered, however, they were arrested inside the courtroom and taken once more into police custody.
Their arrest this time was on the strength of a provisional arrest warrant in conformity with the 2000 Extradition Treaty Belize signed with the United States.
Leach and Knowles were then taken directly to the Belize Central Prison. That move on the part of the Belizean authorities was subjected to rigorous challenge in the bail application that was argued before Justice Dennis Hannomansingh today.
Attorneys for the two men, Godfrey Smith, S.C., and Eamon Courtenay, S.C., submitted that the provisional arrest warrant that the authorities used to imprison their clients was defective.
Smith submitted that the warrant of apprehension was invalid and that his clients should not be currently detained.
Newly appointed Solicitor General, Anita Jackson, who represented the Government in the proceedings, disagreed with Smith’s premise that the men were not supposed to be in prison.
Justice Hannomansingh then commented, “But there is a warrant. What happened? How did these people end up at the Kolbe Foundation? Who signed for these people to be at Kolbe? What are they doing there?”
Smith subsequently asked the court, “Where is the order? There is none.”
“This is a flagrant disregard to Section 5 of [the] Belize Constitution and it means that the petitioners’ rights have been breached,” Smith further submitted.
“We are in a grey purgatorial area in which fundamental rights do not apply,” Smith went on to say.
Courtenay told the court, “What we are engaged in here, My Lord, is a rogue affair. There is no lawful authority that my learned friend [referring to the Solicitor General] can point to. The Magistrate’s Court set them on bail on September 15, and there has been no revocation of that bail and they entered a legal black hole. This is preventative detention without law. No one can come to this court and present a lawful reason why my clients are detained.”
While he was addressing the court, the volume of his voice increased and Solicitor General Jackson told him to be calm.
Courtenay, however, exclaimed, “Calm down, when my client is unlawfully in detention?”
Courtenay continued his submission, “[The ] provisional warrant is not addressed to Mr. Panton, who is the most junior of Magistrates. [The] only Magistrate in Belize that has jurisdiction to deal with extradition is the Chief Magistrate.”
Courtenay said that the opposition to bail was being launched on a false legal premise. “We ask the court to uphold the constitutional right to bail, especially in this, an illegal and rogue affair,” he stated.
The Solicitor General, outgunned by the two senior counsels, decided to predicate her submission on Belize’s treaty obligation with the United States.
She told the court that “the application for bail is premature because no formal request for extradition has been made.”
Justice Hannomansingh declared: “I believe in freedom, and unless you can show me how these men ended up in Kolbe, I am sorry, Ms. Jackson.”
The judge further asked, “Are you saying that there is no document?”
Jackson replied: “I am relying on Article 9 of the Treaty and the warrant which states in its body that they were to be brought back before the Magistrate when the formal request is made and the documents are presented to the Magistrate for authentication and verification.”
Justice Hannomansingh, at the end of the submissions, told the court, “There is nothing to show me how these men ended up where they ended up. So I am going to grant bail to each in the sum of $100,000 with one surety on the following conditions:
“They are not to leave the jurisdiction of Belize, unless approval for so doing is granted by the Supreme Court of Belize.
“They are to report to the Queen Street Police Station every Monday and Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. commencing on Friday, October 3, 2014, until the conclusion of this matter.
“Travel documents are to be lodged with the Clerk of the Magistrate’s Court until the conclusion of this matter. The FIU are to hand over the travel documents to the Clerk of the Courts.”
The United States indicted the two men on September 5, on charges of money laundering and securities fraud in respect of 500 million dollars in taxes, of which the U.S. government said it was defrauded by Titan International Securities, where the men were employed in the offshore banking sector.
The others named in the U.S. indictment are Robert Bandfield, 70; Andrew Godfrey, 51; Brian De Wit, 45, and Cem Can, AKA Jim Can, 44.